Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Transition Time in the Wetlands

The Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area.
There is something I really enjoy about the wetlands in the weeks immediately following ice-out. I find the contrast of brown cattails and blue sky reflected on the water aesthetically pleasing. The lack of foliage in early spring makes for great bird watching and wildlife sighting, a perk that is rapidly dwindling as scenery changes are underway. New cattails are sprouting and will soon be lush & tall as will the phragmites, those giant reeds with plume-like heads. In addition, leaves have already begun to emerge on a variety of trees.

The Black-crowned Night Heron
Claudia was able to shoot a series of photos of this Black-crowned Night Heron on our latest visit to the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area but once the foliage is in full bloom finding photo subjects like this will be difficult.  As the name suggests, this bird is most active just after dusk. They are able to hunt their prey without being harassed by other species of Heron and Egrets. 

Let's zoom in for a closer look.
A Lesser Yellowleg on the hunt for aquatic bugs
We saw this Lesser Yellowleg at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.  It was using its long bill to probe the silt and mud of the marsh bottom for aquatic worms and snails. It’s a bit more tolerant of human approach than its cousin, the Greater Yellowlegs, though it is difficult to tell them apart. All too soon both species will depart for bogs and marshes much farther north.

Wary of human approach, this Great Blue Heron was easy to spot with no grassy obstructions.
Though I’m waiting for warmer weather like most everyone else, there are a few things I’m going to miss about early spring in the wetlands; a greater field of vision, early-departing migratory species and, lest I forget, the absence of annoying winged pests like mosquitoes and deer flies.   

Until next time,
Jim & Claudia 

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